‘PM CARES has paid only for three-fourths of ventilators ordered in April 2020’

More than 16,000 machines from private manufacturers yet to be installed: Health Ministry data

More than a year after the PM CARES fund announced it would buy and distribute 50,000 ventilators for ₹2,000 crore, only ₹1,532 crore has been released, according to a Health Ministry response to a Right to Information request filed by Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd). The remaining money is awaiting clearance from the fund, said an official.

A senior Health Ministry official says 16,000 ventilators — almost all from private manufacturers — have not yet been installed even after the second wave of the pandemic. The Ministry plans a meeting with vendors and the State governments within a week to speed up the installation process, said the official.

Cost mismatch

There is also a mismatch between the cost of these 50,000 ventilators which is ₹2,147 crore as per the RTI, and the ₹2,000 crore amount that PM CARES has allocated. The official said the bill for ₹2,147 crore has been sent to the PMO, but the payment is pending. The PMO officials administer the PM CARES Fund “on an honorary basis”, though the government says the fund itself is private.

As the RTI response states, the Ministry put in a purchase order on April 3, 2020 for 58,850 ventilators at a value of ₹2,332.22 crore. Of these, 30,000 ventilators would come from state-run defence manufacturer Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and the rest from various private players via the Ministry’s procurement agency Hindustan Lifecare Ltd (HLL).

Subsequently, on May 13, 2020, the PM CARES Fund announced that it would pay for 50,000 ventilators at a cost of ₹2,000 crore. The response to the RTI shows that this included all the BEL ventilators and 20,000 being procured by the HLL.

The RTI response shows that BEL has now been paid ₹1,497.34 crore out of its order value of ₹1,513.92 crore. A senior official said the PSU manufacturer has delivered and installed 29,750 of its 30,000 ventilators.

However, it is a different story among private players. Only 42,000 ventilators (of the initial order of 58,850) have been installed, according to the Ministry official, meaning that more than 16,000 ventilators ordered from private manufacturers via HLL have yet to be installed.

Tardy delivery

PM CARES has only released ₹35.36 crore to HLL, according to the RTI. “The amount for 20,000 ventilators procured through HLL comes to ₹633.28 crore. And the bill for the same has been given to the PMO. However, no payment has been released so far except the advance ₹35.36 crore. The file is under process in PMO,” said the official, indicating this may be because of the tardy delivery of privately manufactured machines.

“Within one week’s time, all the ventilators will be allocated and there is going to be a meeting with all the companies and the States about installing them immediately. Some ventilators have not been installed because there is no provision in the facility,” said the official.

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